The Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Oil Heat Association (COHA) has offered this consumer alert: Homeowners hoping to combat the rising cost of heating their homes by switching fuels should research the matter extremely carefully. Industry and consumer groups report it is an expensive undertaking, which rarely helps reduce home energy bills.
“Typically, during periods of spiking fuel prices,” said COHA Ontario spokesperson Constance Wrigley-Thomas, “some consumers react by considering converting from one fuel to another in a misguided attempt to reduce home energy costs. It’s a phenomenon which CECA, the Consumer Energy Council of America, has studied for 25 years.”
Homeowners may think a spike in one fuel price puts them at a long-term disadvantage. Historically however, the prices of home heating oil and natural gas, for instance, track each other. As Wrigley-Thomas explained, “The studies all confirm when one goes up or down, the other soon follows. For example, this year Canadians have seen the price of oil rise while news agencies also have reported jumps in natural gas prices as much as 45 percent. And CECA’s projections into 2025 show no evidence that this oil and gas tracking pattern will change.”
This leads COHA to emphasize there is no meaningful or long-term price advantage with oil versus natural gas. Therefore, price alone is not a good reason to consider an expensive undertaking like converting a home heating system, which is unlikely to reduce home energy bills. In six separate and comprehensive studies over a 25-year period, price tracking is one of the reasons that led CECA to conclude each time. In 95 of 100 cases, it is financially unwise to convert from oil heat to natural gas.
The Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Oil Heat Association recently launched a Web site (www.coha-ontario.ca) to help Ontarians explore what industry and consumer groups consider to be the best way to save money on home energy costs. “Improving the efficiency of your current home heating system through furnace upgrades, plus whole-home energy conservation measures,” said Wrigley-Thomas, “are the only guaranteed ways to reduce home energy bills. And homeowners can control both.” l FON